Software

Can you open bank note images in Photoshop?

dollar banknotes
Money laundering: Photoshop may refuse to deal with your bank notes

This might seem like a strange question, but I came across a post on Hacker News today that claimed it was impossible to open bank note images in Photoshop. This is an anti-counterfeiting measure that Adobe introduced into Photoshop many years ago, one I’d never heard of before.

So, like any child who’s told they can’t do something, the first thing I did was fetch my wallet, pull out a crisp £10 note, scan it and attempt to open it in Photoshop. Did it work? Yes, although I’ve had to add a little graphic overlay on the image of the bank note to (probably forlornly) avoid falling foul of copyright.

It worked for several images of dollar bills too. So what’s going on here? Let’s dig a little further.

Adobe Photoshop counterfeit deterrence system

The Adobe Photoshop counterfeit deterrence system is what’s meant to prevent bank notes opening in the software.

As Adobe explains on its website:

Adobe Photoshop software includes a counterfeit deterrence system (CDS) that prevents the use of the product to illegally duplicate banknotes. As implemented, CDS prevents customers from opening detailed images of banknotes within Photoshop. The CDS technology was commissioned by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG), a consortium of central banks from around the world. Adobe has included CDS in Photoshop at the request of the CBCDG.

Nobody can argue my £10 note scan wasn’t sufficiently detailed to trigger the CDS. It was scanned at 1,200dpi and contained all the distinguishing features. Likewise with many of the dollar bill images I tested it with. So, is this just a bluff by Adobe to put off potential counterfeiters? It seems not.

Bank notes blocked in Adobe Photoshop

Several of the commenters on the Hacker News post said they’d been blocked when attempting to open bank note images in Photoshop.

And on the Adobe Support forums, one user complains they bought a currency image from Adobe’s stock image library in 2015, only to get an error message saying “This application does not support editing of bank note images” in Photoshop. An Adobe employee replies to that message, informing the customer: “You cannot edit bank notes in Photoshop. It’s illegal to do so.”

That’s not strictly true, at least in terms of US currency. Although there are strict rules about reproducing bank notes, as there are in most countries.

Why Photoshop is happy to let me open and edit bank notes images is a mystery. Perhaps the CDS has been removed? (Although Adobe’s support page for the CDS was last updated only last year.) Perhaps my copy of Photoshop has gone rogue? Whatever the case, if you need some cash images editing, you know where to come. You’d better bring plenty more cash with you, too.

Stop Photoshop saving to Creative Cloud

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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